One of the first European countries to print paper money may also be first to phase it out. According to an HSBC analyst report, Sweden is the next nation to emerge as straight-up pro-cryptocurrency.
Cash is dying there, with most Swedish residents perpetuating the well-established culture of paying for things via card or app. In 2015, bills and coins represented just 2% of Sweden’s economy. In 2016, the country’s central bank, Sveriges Riksbank, announced it was investigating issuing a formal Swedish cryptocurrency called the e-krona.
A lot of pieces fit in the hypothetical jigsaw puzzle of Sweden-as-cryptocurrency-haven. The Swedish population already has a lot of experience with financial technology, thanks to a popular payments app called Swish. The app solved peer-to-peer payments for lots of Swedes by instantly moving money between bank accounts for free. More than half the country was using it in 2015.
It helps that one of Sweden’s most famous pop superstars is an ardent anti-cash advocate. Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA hates physical currency so much that the band’s museum in Stockholm won’t accept cash or coins.Ulvaeus started speaking out against physical bills in 2008 when his son’s apartment was burglarized twice within a few weeks. His primary position is one of safety: getting rid of cash removes the financial incentive from crime. Those pesky criminals lose their untraceable monetary instrument of choice.
As it turns out, Sweden’s decline in cash usage just so happens to line up with a decline in crime: in the 10-year period between 2004 and 2014, muggings dropped 10 percent and robberies dropped 70 percent. It’s hard to peg these numbers exactly to the slow extinction of Swedish cash, but they ring of subtle confirmation.
At last count, there were proposals from 33 different entities on how a Swedish cryptocurrency might work. A-list names include IBM, Ericsson, and MIT, all wanting to have a hand in the world’s first formally backed cryptocurrency. Some envision the e-krona retaining value like cash, being stored on a card or app. Others see it depending upon a registry-based system, like bitcoin.
Whatever form it ends up taking, the Swedes are already primed to put a national cryptocurrency to use. They’ve had plenty of experience separating the ideas of “cash” and “money.”